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Doug Herren

I have been teaching at Art Centers, Colleges and Universities since graduating with my MFA in 1992. All of my courses have been studio classes centered around ceramics and working on the potters wheel and hand-building. I have always had a strong hands-on approach to my classes, in providing demos in nearly all classes pertaining to the projects assigned, then following up with attending to each student and the particular difficulties they are working through. It has always been been of primary importance for me to give students as much in-class example of the processes involved in working with clay through a steady stream of demonstrations. I follow up with slide presentations of historical and contemporary work as well to make students aware of what has been done. I also do regular class discussions at the conclusion of each assignment to get students to talk about their work and their own processes.

My current work derives from my training as a functional potter. In my most recent work I create oversized vessel forms....teapots, vases, platters, etc....that are infused with an industrial sensibility. These are sectional forms that must be pieced together because of their scale. While the sources I use are utilitarian pottery forms, I have recast them to
resemble industrial detritus. While there is still the echo of function in these pieces, that function and purpose can only be guessed at and intuited. I depart further from my past work as a potter in the treatment of surfaces. Rather than the use of traditional pottery glazes for finishing, I strive to replicate the surfaces of abandoned machinery. Here I employ sign-painter's paints in multiple layers applied over a black-matt glazed surface. Then I scrub the surfaces with steel wool to erode and distress planes and edges, exposing under-layers of color. The result actually gives an extra punch to the overall color palette. 

While the work is about abandonment and decay, the final result actually comes off as something more playful and boisterous. The ambiguity of the work's intended function and purpose has less to do with nostalgia than to tease and prod the viewer into inventing their own story lines. 

The scale of this body of work is another important departure from my past pottery. Most all the work is enlarged beyond a scale of usefulness. In this sense I feel the work invites a play-school sense of proportion. While the scale is imposing, the bright color palette enlivens what could easily become grim and overbearing pieces. Playfulness really is what is primary to the work, and in the context of a full show, the atmosphere effected can only be described as circus-like.

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Doug Herren, Brown Chromatic Ewer, Stoneware with bronze glaze, enamel paint, 23" x 17" x 12", 2014

Click on the image above for a high-resolution version of this picture.

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